No outside food

Often there are signs in India forbidding customers from bringing outside food into restaurants. In the UK, this is less common…

yamey

The Coffee Cup café in London’s Hampstead has been in business since 1953, and has been very popular since I first remembered it in the early 1960s. I have visited it several times, but never before noticed the sign at its entrance, which reads: “Please do not bring food or drinks from outside into these premises.” This instruction is not seen frequently in restaurants and cafés in the UK. Seeing this sign reminded me of what is very common in eateries in India, namely, signs reading: “Outside food not allowed.” Customers are forbidden to bring into the estblishment food or drink they have obtained elsewhere. That is fair enough, I suppose.

Cinemas in India, like in many other countries, try to sell food and drink to their customers, often at outrageously high prices. Apparently, watching a film is for many people more enjoyable if you are…

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Wood carving in Ahmedabad

POL

The old part of the city of Ahmedabad is divided into self-contained districts, like gated communities, called pols. Each pol has its own single gated entrance which gives sole access to a number of narrow streets. The narrow streets are lined by tall buildings, which together render the temperature of the pols at ground level far lower than the temperature in wider streets and open places in the city.

In times of trouble and strife, the gates of a pol can be closed to prevent intruders entering it. Secret passages lead from one pol to its neighbour(s). Pols have their own wells. 

Often a pol is inhabited by families that have something in common, for example religion, caste or profession.

One of the many delights of the pols in Ahmedabad (they are also found in Baroda) is that they often contain buildings decorated with intricately carved woodwwork decorative and stuctural features.

For tourists, a pol is not only a place that they can literally ‘chill out’ but also they can experience a valuable part of Ahmedabad’s living history.

Art school in Baroda

BARODA ART

 

This lovely old building surrounded by trees and other luxuriant vegetation stands on the campus of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Sayajirao University of Baroda (Vadodara).

Here is an excerpt about this place from my book “Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu”:

In 1935 to celebrate the diamond anniversary of his reign, Maharajah Sayajirao III Gaekwad set aside huge funds, both the state’s and his own, to create a university in Baroda. The Faculty of Fine arts, set in park-like grounds with many trees, is a part of this. The campus contains several buildings. The most attractive of these is an almost octagonal building surrounded by deep verandas with wooden balustrades at both ground floor and first floor levels. This building, which contains some studios, was constructed in the 1930s. Other buildings on the campus are newer, having been built after the Fine Arts Faculty was founded in 1951.

One of the joys of art schools in India, and that in Baroda is no exception, is watching students creating artworks in the open air, and seeing their completed creations exhibited outside. Many of the works on display demonstrate the great technical skills and lively imaginations of their creators. We saw many youngsters sitting in the shade of the trees, at work in their sketchbooks. There were plenty of great sculptures in the gardens of the Baroda art school, but no one was working on them outside. Maybe, it was too warm.

 

Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” by Adam Yamey

is available from Amazon, Bookdepository.com, Lulu.com, and on Kindle

 

 

Espresso coffee in Diu

diu

 

Diu is a small island off the south coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat. Formerly, a Portuguese colony (until 1960), it is now part of India.

 

Shri Ramvijay Refreshment on Bunder Road serves snacks, ice creams and drinks, and is the only place in the city of Diu where espresso coffee can be obtained. The owner bought his Italian espresso-making machine at great expense several years ago. It is a device resembling the Lavazza (LB2312) model for producing single cups of coffee, which was already on the market in 2009. We drank acceptable cups of coffee made with pre-packed coffee capsules placed in this machine. It was the best coffee we had drunk since leaving Bombay, but each tiny cup cost several times as much as the cups of tea available all over Diu and Gujarat. Mr Ramvijay told us that the demand for his coffee was greatest amongst visitors to Diu of Indian origin, who lived in Mozambique and other parts of East Africa.

There are photographs of three previous generations of the Ramvijay family on the café’s rear wall. The present owner Mr Ramvijay explained that his shop was opened in 1933 and has been in business continuously since then. In 1933, it was known as ‘Casa De Refrescos, Ramvijay’. It was started by Shri Mathurbhai Devjibhai Arya, who was born in 1881 in the village of Fudam on Diu Island and established a still functioning soda water factory. Mr Ramvijay told us that he is the major supplier of bottled soda water in Diu. The café is also well-known for its ice cream sodas.

 

Find out much more about Diu and its neighbour Gujarat, by CLICKING:

HERE or HERE  or HERE

Ginger: pounded or grated?

ginger

 

The road-side tea-makers found all over Gujarat make hot milky tea flavoured with various additives. Sugar is almost always added. Ginger is another ingredient often used. It is added to the boiling mixture of milk and tea, which is strained through cloth when it has been boiled sufficiently. Many tea makers grate their ginger using metal graters. A few others, like the man in my photograph taken near Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad, prefer to pound their ginger in a pestle and mortar. Whether using grating or pounding  makes much of a difference to the enjoyment of the tea is a matter of personal opinion.

An offering

mendicant

 

A man carrying hot coals emitting a fragrant smoke entered a small café early one morning in Baroda (Vadodara). He was offering blessings in exchange for a small financial donation. Without displaying any disappointment, he left without having been given any money.

In many religions, fragrant smoke provides a suggestion of holiness.

Two famous vegetarians

gandhi

A photograph of Mahatma Gandhi stands above a fire place in the home of the great paywright George Bernard Shaw at Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire. Gandhi, born in Porbandar in Gujarat, met Shaw in London in 1931.

Both of these great men were vegetarians. Shaw said: “Animals are my friends . . . and I don’t eat my friends.” And Gandhi said: “To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.  I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body“. 

While Gandhi never visited Shaw at his home, Jawaharlal Nehru did in 1950.

In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour politician, is also a vegetarian. I wonder what Shaw would have thought of him and whether he would have put Corbyn’s photograph on his mantle-piece.

 

 

Quotes from https://shawsociety.org/Sri.htm

 

Getting to grips in the kitchen

Here is a handy utensil used every day in kitchens and tea stalls all over Gujarat and the rest of India

yamey

Just in case you have not got one in your kitchen, here is an implement that is extensively used in Indian kitchens and tea stalls.

The sandasi (pronounced roughly like ‘sun-er-see’ said fast), which is is also known as a pakad (from the verb ‘to hold’ in Hindustani) or a chimta (from the verb ‘to pinch’ in Hindustani), is essentially a pair of sturdy hinged metal (stainless steel) tongs. The handles of the implement are several times as long as the gripping elements. This means that quite heavy things may be lifted with the beaks of the tongs without any risk of them slipping out of their grip.

The sandasi’s long handles also mean that the user’s hands can be kept at a safe distance from the hot cooking vessels that are lifted with this pair of tongs. For example, the tea maker can lift and manipulate with ease the…

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Bricks for business

BRICKS FOR BUSINESS

Ahmedabad is rich in exciting 20th century architecture, designed both by Indian and non-Indian architects. 

The prestigious, highly-rated IIMA (Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad) was founded in 1961. Apart from being one of the world’s most respected business schools, its  vast campus is home to an architectural complex designed by the American architect Loouis Kahn (1901-74), who was born in Estonia, when it was part of the Czarist Russian Empire.

His work at the IIMA is a set of brick buildings elegantly designed with archways, circular apertures, and shady walkways.Kahn worked on this project from 1962 until his death. The Ahmedabad-based architect BV Doshi, who studied alongside Le Corbusier and was influenced by Kahn, was also involved in the design, although the greater part of the credit for the design should be given to Kahn. 

We were lucky to have had a contact who was able to get us permission to visit IIMA, which is usually not open to visitors, who have no business with the institute.

 

 

Going vegetarian in Gujarat

veg

 

There are many vegetarians in India, particularly in Gujarat.

I am primarily an omnivore, who enjoys meat and fish.

In many of the places we visited on a seven week visit to Kutch and Saurashtra, it was difficult or even impossible to find restaurants serving non-vegetarian food. I spotted street stalls where omelettes were made to order – and they are very delicious – and barrows where un-refrigerated kebabs were on display in the hot weather, awaiting grilling.

In Kutch, I enjoyed the delicately prepared, tasty vegetarian thalis. In Saurashtra, thalis were less attractive to my taste because of their oily-ness and over use of sugar or other sweeeners. However, Gujarat is a paradise for snackers. All over Gujarat, you will find places selling a variety of delicious farsan (savoury snacks). My favourites include: dhokla, patra, ganthia, sev, bhel puri, chewda, dahi puri, khandvi, and pani puri.

Therefore when I wanted something more substantial, I resorted to eating readily available South Indian specialities such as dosas and curd vada. Or, I ordered pizzas. The pizzas, which would look strange to a Sicilian or a Neapolitan, were delicious despite the fact that the cheese used was not remotely similar to mozzarella. I suspect it was often the industrially prepared Indian Amul product. By the way, Amul was a dairy company established just after Indian Independence in Gujarat, inspired by ideas suggested by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, an important statesman and politician born in Gujarat. Getting back to the pizzas, what made them delicious was the tomato sauces used on them. These were not run-of-the-mill out-of-the-can industrial products. They were usually sauces made in the restaurant using fresh tomatoes and herbs and appropriate spices. Indian Chinese food, even if vegetarian, is also an option.

Well, although I am not a fan of veg food, many people fall in love with the various meat-free and egg-free cuisines of Gujarat.